The Doctor is in. For now, at least.

Few would disagree that long waits at the doctor’s office are incredibly frustrating.

If you believe a new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), things could get even worse.

The AAMC report “estimates a shortfall ranging from 34,600 to 88,000 doctors by 2025, compared to what our growing and aging population may need. By 2030, the shortfall is expected to total anywhere from 40,800 to 104,900 doctors.”

That means not only longer waits to get a simple examination, but also delays in getting needed surgeries – something which could range from serious to deadly.

The reason is partly due to the baby-boomer generation quickly becoming the largest age group in our nation.  By 2030, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will grow by 55 percent.

G. Kerch, AAMC president and CEO, calls the physician shortage projections “especially troubling,” because as people age they typically need more health care services.

The researchers looked at the data in a number of areas of medicine, including:

  • Primary care
  • Medical specialties, such as allergy and immunology, cardiology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, and many other treatment areas
  • Surgical specialties
  • Other specialties, a category that included psychiatry and pathology

All of this, however, is based on the way the medical field has traditionally operated.

It may be that the way medicine will work in the future may negate the need for as many doctors.

Similar to how we do much of our shopping and banking online these days, technologies such as telemedicine may play a bigger role, reducing the need for more specialists in the medical field.  Dermatologists, for example, are sometimes able to effectively diagnose people remotely, as are heart experts.

“Virtual care, self-monitoring, group sessions, some ‘miracle drugs’ — there are all kinds of things that can happen over the next couple of decades that will change the basic pattern of how we deliver office-based medical care. So I think it adds much more uncertainty to the conclusions of the report,” says Dr. Ira Nash, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health Physician Partners in New Hyde Park, New York

Another concern is whether or not the Trump administration’s immigration policies  will cause a disruption to the doctor work force. A report from CBS News states that one in four doctors in the U.S. are foreign born.  While courts have blocked the President’s proposed policies thus far, the future is uncertain.

The AAMC report proposed some solutions, including incentives for young adults who choose medicine as a career and an evolution towards a more team-based approach to health care involving nurses, dentists, pharmacists and public health professionals. Also, increasing the number of residency positions available to new medical school graduates – which would require the federal government to lift a cap on federally funded residency training positions – would help.

Some fear that this shortage may also contribute to an increase in the number of mistakes made by doctors and other medical personnel while treating patients.   Malpractice in medicine already accounts for the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States.  The attorneys at Theodoros & Rooth take this situation very seriously.   We have over a century of combined experience representing patients who have been the victims of irresponsible medical practices.  If you feel that you or a loved one have been harmed by the negligence of a medical provider or facility, contact us immediately.  If there is a case, we will aggressively stand up for your rights and seek the compensation you deserve.  There is never a fee unless we win your case.

Sources:  Associated Press and CBS News, 2017